The forest fires

Fredy Winkler

The forest fires that occurred throughout Israel at the end of November 2016 were primarily a result of the extremely dry weather. There was no significant precipitation for months before the fires started. Due to the strong and very dry east winds that blew for many days, something as simple as a carelessly-tossed cigarette could have ignited the devastating fires.

The simultaneous start of several fires raised some suspicion that Palestinians might have set the fires on purpose, as yet another form of terrorism. Of course, these suspicions would need to be proven. The expressions of delight that some Palestinians posted on the internet, shortly after the fires started, served to strengthen that suspicion.

There was a tremendous willingness of other nations to help Israel deal with the emergency. Airplanes equipped with fire-fighting apparatus came from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Croatia, France, Spain, Azerbaijan, the Ukraine, the United States and Egypt. Many other nations also offered assistance to Israel. More than 160 volunteer firemen from Cyprus and the USA showed up to fight the fires and support their colleagues in Israel.

One item in particular that must be noted was the help provided to Israel by eight Palestinian fire trucks, and the crews to man them. The Palestinian leadership is thus sending a clear signal that arson is unacceptable.

In contrast to the great forest fires that tore across Mount Carmel six years ago and caused the deaths of 44 people, these recent fires have not resulted in a single loss of life. This is in spite of the fact that the recent fires blazed within the City of Haifa and thousands of people had to be evacuated. A number of homes were partially damaged, and some burned completely.

Israel is proud of its planted forests, but in light of the recurring large forest fires, it must be determined whether pines and firs are right for this nation. The native trees are primarily oaks, which are less vulnerable to forest fires. Once again it is apparent that human manipulation of nature can be fatal, when the naturally given traits of a species are ignored. It also appears that the fir trees are beginning to die out after approximately eighty years. These experiences have led to the planting of more trees that are naturally suited to the region and which are mentioned in the Bible. Unfortunately these trees, as opposed to the firs, grow much more slowly, but will eventually be centuries old and tremendously large.

Anyone who plants a tree must realize that he isn’t only planting it for himself, but for future generations as well. The book of Isaiah compares human lifespan during the thousand-year reign to the lifespan of a tree: “For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people” (Isaiah 65:22).

God’s plan for mankind was that they should live eternally in harmony with their Creator. The fall and the introduction of sin destroyed that relationship, but God has not given up on His original plan. In Christ Jesus, it’s possible to come back to God and receive eternal life. This is our living hope in all times and places.

It is in this living hope that I greet all readers and wish you a blessed New Year, thankful for our Christian bond and your work in the service of our Lord.

News From Israel - 01/2017

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